Lessons Learned from the Analysis of Community-Based Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Program (PAMSIMAS) in Indonesia

This is a guest blog by RWSN members D. Daniel, Trimo Pamudji Al Djono, and Widya Prihesti Iswarani, based in Indonesia.

Data tell us many things. We can learn the patterns of any phenomenon using data. In this blog, we bring you to the archipelago country of Indonesia where water access is still a challenge, especially in rural areas. As of 2020, only 82% of households in rural Indonesia have access to basic water services, while almost 95% of urban households enjoy those water services.

To tackle this, the Indonesian government launched the community-based drinking water supply program, called “Program Penyediaan Air Minum dan Sanitasi Berbasis Masyarakat (PAMSIMAS)” in 2007. Almost 22 million people in 32 thousand villages throughout Indonesia got PAMSIMAS access from 2008 to 2020. PAMSIMAS is one of the biggest rural water supply programs in the world. Unfortunately, not many stories from PAMSIMAS are shared with the global community, so we are here to tell you the story!

PAMSIMAS infrastructure

PAMSIMAS is conducted at the village level and managed by the community itself. If we talk about functionality, the data in 2020 indicates that 85.4% of the PAMSIMAS programs were fully functioning, 9.1% were partially functioning, and 5.5% were not functioning. Thus, we can say that the success rate for this program is quite high.

The main question now is what can we learn from the PAMSIMAS program? Here are some lessons learned from our study:

First, household connections have a higher chance of being sustainable (99%) than communal or public connection (69%), e.g., public tap. We can relate it to the payment system. Almost 40% of the communal connections had no payment system, compared to only 3.5% of the household connection. From the field experience, it is relatively challenging to implement and collect water fees in the communal systems, especially because there is no water meter measuring the actual use of households. We should take into account also that other people from outside often come and draw water without paying for it, which can cause jealousy from the actual beneficiaries and make them hesitate to continue paying for the water service.  All of these can result in not enough money for the water board to maintain and repair any damage in the system.

Second, let’s talk about the contribution made by the community or beneficiaries toward the program. We all agree that it is important for the community to contribute to the program, either in form of in-kind, e.g., in the program planning, pipe and system construction, etc., or in-cash, e.g., monthly tariff or construction cost. We may think that the more people participate in those activities, the higher the chance of the water service being sustainable. And yes, it is true. However, our analysis found that community contribution in the form of regular-monthly payment is more influential than in-kind contributions at the beginning of the project to sustain the PAMSIMAS program. We again highlight that regular payment by the beneficiaries is important to sustain the program.

PAMSIMAS infrastructure

Third, the success of the rural water supply program cannot be achieved without favorable human factors, such as a well-performing water board and good support or contributions from the community. For the former, we suggest that mentoring of the village water board by the district facilitator can be done to ensure that the water board has sufficient capacity to efficiently manage the piped system, e.g., repair broken pipes or implement cost-effective operation & maintenance.

Fourth, financial support from the national and district government is critical, e.g., by providing extra subsidies or incentives outside the main fund scheme. In this case, only well-performing water boards or PAMSIMAS programs have a chance to apply for these extra funds. Thus, this will trigger the water board to perform well before they apply for it. In short, we need support from all governmental levels: national, district, and village.

Fifth, we have to understand the relationship between water board performance and support from the community. Let’s have a look, for example, at monthly payments: the well-performing water boards will increase the trust of the community and minimize any interruption in water delivery. As a result, the community would be happy to pay the water fee regularly and support the water board activities. In other words, this will create positive conditions for the water board.

Lastly, we know that water access is a human right. We (and the government) are trying to provide water to everyone in need, especially vulnerable groups, e.g., poor people or those who live in difficult areas. On behalf of human rights, the government is willing to spend a lot of money on those groups, which may result in a very high investment per capita. Some reasons for the high investment per capita are a small number of beneficiaries, wide coverage area of the water supply system, or scattered housing in remote areas. However, our analysis found that a high investment per capita is not associated with a sustainable PAMSIMAS program. We don’t want to say stop providing water for them, but rather the need for a comprehensive economic analysis and system design in the feasibility study before the project starts.

There are many things to share with you but we don’t have enough space to write everything here. If you are still curious, please check our scientific publications about PAMSIMAS below. See you!

Factors related to the functionality of community-based rural water supply and sanitation program in Indonesia. Geography and Sustainability. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geosus.2022.12.002

The effect of community contribution on the functionality of rural water supply programs in Indonesia. Groundwater for Sustainable Development. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gsd.2022.100822

A System Dynamics Model of the Community-Based Rural Drinking Water Supply Program (PAMSIMAS) in Indonesia. Water. https://doi.org/10.3390/w13040507

About the authors:

(D.) Daniel is a lecturer and researcher at Public Health Graduate program, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia. His main topics of interest are water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) system in rural areas, household water treatment practice/behaviour, the sustainability of WASH services, drinking water quality at the household level, and public health issue in general.

Trimo Pamudji Al Djono has 25 years of experience in community development and empowerment programs/projects in urban and rural. Trimo has worked for the World Bank for 14 years managing national programs and has experience as a researcher and lecturer by becoming a Lecturer in Environmental Engineering at the Jakarta Sapta Taruna College (STTST) and Singaperbangsa Karawang University. Other experiences include working as a consultant at GHD, Plan International, Unicef, UNIDO, Aguaconsult, and NORC University of Chicago.

Widya Prihesti Iswarani is a lecturer/researcher in the field of environmental science and engineering. She is currently working at Avans University of Applied Sciences and Centre of Expertise Biobased Economy in The Netherlands. Her main topics of interest are water and wastewater treatment, resource recovery, and the sustainability of WASH in developing countries.

Photo credits: D. Daniel, Trimo Pamudji Al Djono, and Widya Prihesti Iswarani

Why self supply solutions are needed to reach SDG 6.1

This year we are celebrating 30 years since the Rural Water Supply Network was formally founded. From very technical beginnings as a group of (mostly male) experts – the Handpump Technology Network- we have evolved to be a diverse and vibrant network of over 13,000 people and 100 organisations working on a wide range of topics. Along the way, we have earned a reputation for impartiality, and become a global convener in the rural water sector.

RWSN would not be what it is today without the contributions and tireless efforts of many our members, organisations and people. As part of RWSN’s 30th anniversary celebration, we are running a blog series, inviting our friends and experts in the sector to share their thoughts and experiences in the rural water sector.

This is a guest blog by RWSN members Lieselotte Heederik and Steven Ramsey , based in Indonesia.

Only 9% of the 275 million Indonesians use piped water supplied by water utilities for their daily needs  and this percentage is decreasing.  In this Blog we talk why governments and other institutions should prioritize self-supply solutions.  We also discuss how decentralized water supply and treatment can help to  achieve universal access to safely managed drinking water.

To achieve universal access to safely managed drinking water by 2030, the Indonesian government and international institutions like the World Bank have focused on increasing piped water access. However, as in many developing countries in the global south, access to piped water in Indonesia remains exceedingly low. Local water utility companies, known as PDAM, only reach about 20% of Indonesian households, of which, less than half use PDAM water for their daily needs. Since only 9% of Indonesians use PDAM supplied water, this implies that 91% of Indonesia’s population use groundwater for domestic use. 91% of Indonesia’s population of 275 million people is around 250.25 million people. To put that number in perspective, that’s larger than the populations of Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Sweden, and Denmark combined!

Can Piped Water Meet Indonesia’s Domestic Needs? 

Water utilities should serve 40 percent of the population by 2019. At least that was planned in the Indonesian Government’s 2015–2019 medium term development plan.  As we now know, this target was not met and was moved to the 2020–2024 plan. However the question remains, why does Indonesian government planning focus so heavily on piped water? One reason may come with the prestige that comes with having advanced public utility service.  Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that piped water will play a leading role in achieving universal access to safely managed drinking water, and here’s why: 

  1. For decades PDAMs have struggled to meet demand from rapid urbanization. This has led to groundwater overexploitation in many urban areas leading to land subsidence, most notably in Jakarta.
  2. Bulk raw water resources only supply 30 percent of total demand. With no clear path towards increasing supply, this has led to many PDAMs providing only intermittent service. 
  3. Higher tariffs incentivize PDAMs to prioritize water allocation to industrial usage. This is especially true in low income areas where tariff collection rates are lower. 
  4. Once a well is dug, groundwater is essentially free, compared with having to pay a monthly bill with PDAM water.

Even where access exists, the source is often not safely managed. 

With PDAMs struggling to meet even a quarter of domestic demand, it’s no surprise that water quality has taken the back burner. A government study conducted in 2020 found 148 PDAMs produced water that was not safe to drink. Another study in Yogyakarta found 77% of piped water was contaminated with e-coli. This isn’t to say that groundwater quality is any better, in fact it’s often worse, especially if coming from an unprotected source. One study in Jakarta found 24% of samples coming from a groundwater source had fecal matter compared with just 3% coming from piped water. Even bottled water isn’t necessarily free from contamination. In both aforementioned studies, e-coli was detected in water purchased from refill kiosks.

Village water supply. This is how most households in Indonesia get their -untreated- water to their houses. Treatment is necessary to make this safe for consumption. 

Solution: Decentralized, self-help centered water filters.

In order to achieve SDG target 6.1 Indonesia must achieve universal access to safely managed drinking water by 2030. However, only 12 percent of Indonesia’s population currently has such access. The 242 million Indonesians without access to safely managed drinking water cannot wait for expensive centralized utility projects and it’s unrealistic that these will reach all rural-communities. 

Surely, in certain contexts, such as high density urban areas, investing in piped water utilities may make sense. However, as Unicef states in their recent policy brief, self supply solutions with appropriate household water treatment are an important part of the safely managed water supply mix.  Household water treatment solutions provide households with a tool to filter rain, tap, and groundwater into water that is safe to drink in a matter of hours. Together, with investment in safe and sustainably managed groundwater, household water treatment solutions play a critical role in filling the gap between potable and safe drinking water.

About the authors:

Lieselotte (Lisa) Heedrik is the co-founder and director of Nazava Water Filters. Nazava is a social enterprise based in Indonesia, Kenya, and Ethiopia that produces ceramic, gravity based household water filters that are certified by WHO for bacterial removal. Nazava has sold over 200,000 units and has been exported to 32 countries worldwide. Lisa has over 15 years of International development experience and is passionate about embracing household solutions to reach SDG 6.
Steven Ramsey is a consultant with Nazava Water Filters with over 6 years experience working on water and climate resilience projects in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Steven is a Fulbright alumnus and graduate of the Elliott School of International Affairs where he concentrated on Global Energy & Environmental Policy. He is passionate about finding climate resilient solutions in the WASH sector. 

Featured photo: Water provided through tanks in a village in West Java. Treatment is necessary to make it safe for consumption.

Photo credits: Lisa Heedrick.


Innovations in Community Based Organisations, in Indonesia

So I’m at the Indonesia International Water Week 2015 and on the second day, the event has been split into six parallel streams:

  1. Sustainable Access to Safe Drinking Water
  2. Community Based Water Supply
  3. Domestic Wastewater Management
  4. Municipal Solid Waste Management and Domestic Wastewater
  5. Water Resources: Sinking Cities / Towards Better Implementation of IWRM
  6. Water Resources: Measuring Progress / Water Infrastructure & Water Resources Management

Continue reading “Innovations in Community Based Organisations, in Indonesia”

RWSN in Indonesia

So this week, I’m lucky enough to have been invited to present at the International Indonesia Water Week in Jakarta. RWSN is a global network, but many of you will have noticed the strong Africa-bias. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the challenges of delivering good quality rural water services are to be found everywhere – indeed the Pacific region is the where the biggest disparities between urban and rural are to be found [JMP].
Continue reading “RWSN in Indonesia”